# What is Potential energy: Definition and 998 Discussions

In physics, potential energy is the energy held by an object because of its position relative to other objects, stresses within itself, its electric charge, or other factors.Common types of potential energy include the gravitational potential energy of an object that depends on its mass and its distance from the center of mass of another object, the elastic potential energy of an extended spring, and the electric potential energy of an electric charge in an electric field. The unit for energy in the International System of Units (SI) is the joule, which has the symbol J.
The term potential energy was introduced by the 19th-century Scottish engineer and physicist William Rankine, although it has links to Greek philosopher Aristotle's concept of potentiality. Potential energy is associated with forces that act on a body in a way that the total work done by these forces on the body depends only on the initial and final positions of the body in space. These forces, that are called conservative forces, can be represented at every point in space by vectors expressed as gradients of a certain scalar function called potential.
Since the work of potential forces acting on a body that moves from a start to an end position is determined only by these two positions, and does not depend on the trajectory of the body, there is a function known as potential that can be evaluated at the two positions to determine this work.

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1. ### Is potential energy defined only for internal conservative forces?

Is gravitational potential energy defined only for internal conservative forces? For reference, this is the chapter. Suppose we have two objects: object 1 and also object 2. If we consider the system to be both objects, then we can compute the work done by the pair of internal conservative...
2. ### Pounds Of Explosives Necessary

Hello! Apologies if I'm missing some information but here is my thinking so far. Had the drag force not been there, the potential energy would equal the amount of energy the explosives have to disipate to get the car to that height. However, since drag force is included it makes it more...
3. ### B Analogy to binding energy

Can I understand the relationship between binding energy and mass by comparing it to the relationship between kinetic energy and potential energy? When an object falls, its gravitational potential, a scalar value, decreases, and its energy is converted into kinetic energy. Even when a nuclear...
4. ### Why can we move the spring with constant speed when we apply a force?

One solution is that if we move with the same velocity as the spring does, the initial velocity of the block will be ##v## and the final will be zero, so its kinetic energy will transform into a potential energy of the spring. I would also say that we can say that if we pull the spring, we...
5. ### Challenging problem about an impact with a smooth frictionless surface

The system of two material points of identical mass connected by a rigid rod of negligible mass and length ##L## is an example of a conservation of energy problem. The initial energy of the system is the sum of the kinetic energy of the two points and the potential energy of the rod, which is...
6. ### Graphing Elastic Potential Energy

Good afternoon, I have a question on graphing this problem. There seems to be something weird going on. In Excel, I set up the potential energy function (kx²/2) and plotted it from x = -0.300m to 0.300m, which looks like the following: The overall shape of the graph looks like what's...
7. ### Hooke's Law using Potential Energy

Max speed occurs when all energy has been translated from spring into box. E (Potential) = 1/2kx^2 E (Potential) = (1/2)(42 N/m)(0.280 m)^2 = 1.6464 N m Ep = Ek =1/2mv^2 1.6464 N m= 1/2 (1.2 kg) v^2 v = 1.6565 m/s
8. ### I Different Equations of Motion for different frames

I might be getting hooked up on this subject, but this is the last question I'm gonna ask about this. When potential energy on earth is given by ##mgy##, we know space is said to be homogeneous. If you're standing on the ground and in one case, ball is dropped from some height and then another...
9. ### Change in potential energy

Why there will be no change in potential energy due to this sharp blow ? Potential energy is a function of position , so won't this position get changed due to this sharp blow?Please help!
10. ### I Dark energy contributing to, or modifying, mass estimates?

I have found some papers (like this one: https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/full_html/2009/45/aa12762-09/aa12762-09.html) which say that dark energy increases the potential energy in a system of a quasi-stationary gravitationally bound many-body system. It also says that because of this, the...
11. ### I Work-Energy Theorem for Moving Block and Spring System?

In the chapter of center of mass and linear momentum, there are multiple problems involving two block systems connected by a string, with both blocks given certain initial velocities. The goal is to calculate the maximum elongation or compression in the spring. For example, consider this...
12. ### Kinetic-Potential energy of moving Ice

Hi, Am i correct in thinking that if we take a block of ice, moving at a constant velocity, it's then exposed to a heat source which melts the ice and turns it into water vapour, that we have simply removed any Kinetic energy, by Sublimation or converting it into heat. My question is does the...
13. ### B Springboard physics questions for diving coach at YMCA

I'm a diving coach at the local YMCA and I want to give a lesson regarding the physics of diving off the board with maximum efficiency. This is the type of diving board with an adjustable fulcrum, basically a lever with one end fixed with bolts. Its been almost 15 years since I've taken a...
14. ### I Potential energy of spin anti-alignment

Hello everybody, I consider two electrons that have enough kinetic energy to reach their respective classical electron radius. This would be: 2.0514016772310431402e-13 J The corresponding speed is v = 287336682 m/s. The electric field is E = \frac{k_{e}}{R_e^2} = 1.8133774657059088443 ×...
15. ### Rate of loss of potential energy

I got answer for (a), which is 0.51 m For (b), loss of potential energy = 35 x 9.81 x 0.51 = 175 J Rate of loss of potential energy = 175 J / 1 s = 175 W But the answer key is 80 W. Where is my mistake? Thanks
16. ### B Conversion of Potential Energy: Sound or Heat?

When a coin is dropped from a certain height and collides with a glass surface, is the majority of the potential energy converted to sound or heat? And how would one determine this as I only hear the sound and cannot measure the significant change in temperature?
17. ### Kinetic Energy / Potential Energy / Total Energy question

W_ext is the external work done on B and C, which is 12 J Delta K_tot is the internal work, which is the work done by A on B plus the work done by A on C Delta K_tot = 5 Solving for \Delta U, we find that the change in potential energy is 7 J This answer says otherwise...
18. ### Why is the elastic potential energy in position 2 zero?

Hello, so we have two potitions right, if we take ##\theta = 90## as the first position (i.e. both rods are flat) and then the second position at ##\theta = 0##. I totally understand the exercise, not difficult. The only issue I am having is the torsional spring... it says that it is uncoiled...
19. ### Link between increase in Potential energy and the thermal energy lost

"Heat is the transfer of kinetic energy between molecules. If the velocity is more, the kinetic energy will be more so that the heat is more." "As an object's speed increases, the drag force from the fluid increases exponentially. For example, when you drive at high speeds, the frictional force...
20. ### Two charged spheres hitting each other

Since the forces involved (gravity and electric force) are conservative we can use conservation of energy. The initial energy is ##E_i= k\frac{q_1q_2}{r_0}-G\frac{m^2}{r_0} ## and the final ##E_f=mv^2+k\frac{q_1q_2}{2r}-G\frac{m^2}{2r} ## so from ##E_i=E_f ## we get...
21. ### Springs and Potential Energy

Ki + Ui = Kf + Uf 1/2)kx2 = (1/2)mvf2, but W = (1/2)mvf2 = F∆d, so 1/2)kx^2 = F∆d. The solution says that I should just substitute v as d/t. But could anyone explain why my reasoning is wrong? Thanks.
22. ### I Water powered funicular with equal masses?

I found a paper (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312123871_Introducing_a_Modified_Water_Powered_Funicular_Technology_and_its_Prospective_In_Nepal) where the authors design a funicular system powered by water but with a modification from traditional systems where apparently the funicular...
23. ### I Principle of Physics: Derivation of -dU/dx=F

Hi, Everyone! This is the page(first image) from Principle of physics by resnik. I want to ask the definition of work(##W=F(x) \Delta x##) by variable force here is somewhat different from the usual integral version. I don't understand how is this valid definition? Secondly, how did they reach...
24. ### B Gravitational Potential Energy & Mass Change: Andrew's Question

If I start with two, otherwise isolated, masses M and m initially together and do work to separate them then the work done, I assume, goes into the gravitational binding energy between them. Will the system of mass M and m have increased in mass due to this in accordance with e=mc^2? I...
25. ### I Potential energy of a pressurized gas canister in space

Suppose there is a pressurized gas canister in space, at rest. With a mass "m" of gas inside of it at a pressure "P". Next the valve of the canister is opened. The canister will accelerate in the opposite direction to the valve opening. When all the gas has left the canister, it will be moving...
26. ### I "A system tries to minimize total potential energy"

While reading this thread on Stack Exchange... https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/113092/why-does-a-system-try-to-minimize-potential-energy ... a question came to mind : - Say an object is launched away from Earth at a velocity greater than the escape velocity. This system will not end...
27. ### I Gravitational potential energy

Hello everyone! I noticed in the derivation of potential energy, Mr Lewin defined the gravitational potential energy of a mass m at point P relative to a much larger mass M. He says the potential energy of m at point P is equal to the work he would have to do to move the mass m from infinity to...

49. ### Time dependant Potential Energy in ion trap

Ion traps are very complex, but one of my Physics Olympiad textbooks presents a simplified model of a resonating charged particle in an ion trap A tuned circuit consists of an inductor and a parallel plate capacitor (capacitance C and plate separation d). It has a resonating frequency ##\nu...
50. ### Work done on dipole and potential energy in uniform electric field

I encountered a problem regarding the appropriate sign needed to be taken for the work done on a dipole when it rotates in a uniform electric field and would appreciate some help. The torque on a dipole can be defined as τ=PEsinθ The work done on a dipole to move it from an angle ##\theta_0##...